Building a Steam Machine – Part 2

So, you’ve decided to build your own machine and identified what you want to pack into the case/frame that will house it all. What’s the next step?

Do Your Homework

Whilst it sounds a little ironic, this project will cost so it pays to do your research when buying your parts to ensure everything will fit and talk to each other.

Being out of computers for a couple of years I felt I needed to research harder to ensure I wasn’t missing out on important information, which paid off particularly when I realised how much storage technology has changed since I worked with the 90-00s disk based hard drive with an IDE connector on it and how much that mattered when I chose my motherboard that now had 3 different connectors I could attach with (PCI-E, M.2, SATA) – not to mention the choice of USB 2 or 3 for external storage and an array of different protocols to work under. Even after my initial research it was only 2 days before I ordered my final bits before I changed my mind again after having a single sentence on SCAN Computer’s page change my mind from M.2 to SATA and saved my £200 that I was already struggling on my budget after realising the only benefit was that with M.2 I was saving space that I already had bags of for a SATA SSD Drive (which in my case looks stupidly tiny all the same in the big drive tray.

Super Important Point

I know this might sound obvious reading this, considering it’s a Steam based machine – but unless you’re planning to run Steam exclusively on Windows, make sure you check this really important point for each system component you choose: Make Sure it’s Compatible with your Motherboard and with SteamOS. Valve have released some minimum system requirements and have maintained some important points about the software on their SteamOS webpage, which can be accessed here. If you don’t then it’ll only work with the operating systems it specifies and if the part isn’t even compatible with your motherboard, your system might not boot at all, or if it does may be unstable. This goes for any part, including your fans/cooling pipes that will try and stop your stuff from overheating or igniting.

Write It Down & Add It Up

Whilst you’re researching your motherboard and all the things you plan to attach to it, it’s worth creating a workbook in a spreadsheet package such as Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets or Open/Libre Office Calc and create a separate spreadsheet for each hypothetical build you’re putting together. On each of mine I made a note for each Component of the Make, Model/Part Numbers, Parameters (e.g: For RAM – the specific features and size, or for Processor the Speed and number of cores) and Cost. Then you can use the SUM and Currency features to work out your VAT, shipping and total costs for each item as well as a grand total for the build.

In terms of hypothetical builds, don’t go mad on lots of different makes and models for components, just enough to make a fair comparison for yourself or you’ll get lost in a world of parts. Ideally in my first plan I made 5 builds and an experimental 6th one where I interchanged compatible parts. I sadly lost that spreadsheet to an operating system fault on my laptop, but rebuilt and revisited this last year to come up with my final 5.

Where Do I Even Begin?

If you’re not sure where to start, the best bet is to take your time on this and to follow a consistent workflow or pattern to ensure you’re treating each candidate item fairly in judgement and to not lose sight of your plan. I found this workflow to be really helpful:

Choose a Part –> Visit a manufacturer’s site –> Choose a few models –> Compare their features and selling points (use the comparison tools if available


Check the critic’s reviews on independent review or credible magazine sites –> Check the customer reviews on review and shopping sites –> Shop around for the best price

The manufacturers I used in the end included:

  • ASUS ROG (Motherboard & Thermal Compound)
  • ASUS/NVIDIA (Graphics Card)
  • Intel (Processor)
  • Crucial (SSD)
  • Crucial Ballistix (RAM)
  • Antec (Case)
  • NOFAN (Processor Cooler)
  • HALNZIYE (Extra Thermal Compound)
  • Valve (Steam Controller)
  • Cooler Master (Power Supply)

Rinse, dry and repeat this method for a few parts if you’re looking at different manufacturers (which I highly recommend!) and for each component. If you’re lucky enough to find a site like Crucial (who are great for memory and storage #notsponsored) or Cooler Master (who make great power supplies, again not sponsored), you might be able to have the hard work done for you by using their tools to input your particular makes and models of various components to best match you up with their most compatible products, giving you peace of mind and sanity.

Once you’ve compiled your spreadsheet, you’ll finally get to get to buy your parts and start making your dreams and conceptual builds a real one. I’ll talk more about this in the next post.


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